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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac: Pier 39

Air Date: Week of

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This week, facts about sea lions at San Francisco’s Pier 39.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: Every since 1989 San Francisco's Pier 39 has belonged to the sea lions. A few of these burly pinnipeds started hanging out there right around the time of a major earthquake, and more have kept coming. Sea lions are known for their playfulness, and it didn't take long for tourists to start flocking to Pier 39, as well. So, the pier owner marked the dock "Sea Lions Only" to keep the curious at bay. And at times, indeed, there is hardly any room for anyone else. Up to 1,000 sea lions have been observed on the pier at any one time.

A local marine mammal research group has a visitor center there. Employee Marcia Schmeltzer says on the dock right now she can see 100 or so sea lions putting on a show.

SCHMELTZER: The older ones sleep, and the younger ones are playing, and there's several--there's probably like a half a dozen or more playing, having a good time, knocking each other off the dock, diving, just having a good time. I mean, they're cute, they really are. They're cute.

CURWOOD: It's unclear why sea lions started coming to Pier 39. Could be because these waters are relatively safe from their predators, or perhaps they were drawn to the San Francisco waterfront after the 1989 earthquake knocked down a noisy expressway, and brought new life to the area. After all, consider that the Latin name of the sea lion is Zalophus californicus. Roughly translated, that means, “there's lots happening in California,” and sea lions gotta be right at the action. And that's this week's Living on Earth Almanac.




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